By Joe Uchill – 08/22/16 11:22 AM EDT
A widely reported allegation that the FBI is using bitcoin seized from the Silk Road criminal market to bid on stolen NSA source code is false, experts tell The Hill.
Many users appear to be mistaking outgoing payments for incoming payments. A bitcoin user sent money to both the seized bitcoin accounts and the National Security Agency source code action, but no money transferred between the latter two accounts.
“I made the same mistake at first, too,” said Wesley McGrew, director of cyber operations at HORNE Cyber. “If you aren’t looking too closely, or don’t know enough about bitcoin, it’s an easy mistake to make.”
The FBI seized the bitcoin used by the Silk Road when it shut down the dark web market for illicit goods in 2013.
While users’ real names or locations are not public on bitcoin, all transactions between the anonymous accounts are recorded in a public ledger.
Last week, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers announced that whoever sent it the most bitcoin would win source code widely believed to have come from an NSA hacking operation.
Samples released by the Brokers contained previously unknown techniques to break into security hardware referenced but not fully explained in previously released documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. They also contained a software tracking code mentioned in previously unreleased Snowden documents.
“The person who sent bitcoin to both accounts looks like a troll — someone who just wanted to see his name appear in both ledgers,” McGrew said.
McGrew noted that user manipulated transaction data recorded from a series of small payments to the auction account to spell out the lyrics to the Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” a variant of an internet prank known as “Rickrolling.”